Teen New Bedford Murder Suspect Allegedly Stole Gun From Dad
A Mattapoisett teen with a history of trouble allegedly stole a handgun from his father early Friday before making his way to New Bedford, sneaking into the home of an ex-friend, getting kicked out of that apartment by the ex-friend's mother, then walking out to the neighborhood streets and shooting two men – killing one and critically injuring another – before firing wildly at police and surrendering.
Jon Zell, 18, was ordered held without bail Monday in New Bedford District Court. He's charged with murder, 10 counts of armed assault with intent to murder, and gun crimes. Zell is undergoing a psychological evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital and is due back in court on Dec. 18 for a competency hearing.
An affidavit filed with the court by Massachusetts State Trooper Katherine Sullivan outlines a series of events leading to the Nov. 27 double shooting that took the life of 40-year-old Angel Cruz and seriously injured 34-year-old Wilfredo Balestier. The two men were shot as they worked together on a car repair project outside 12 LaFrance Court, according to Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III.
As the lead investigators, Trooper Sullivan and New Bedford Police Detective Kevin Lawless interviewed witnesses, including Eric Zell of 4 Mechanic Street in Mattapoisett, who is Jon Zell's father. According to Sullivan's affidavit:
Jon Zell, whose actual address is not clear, arrived at his father's home Wednesday with plans to spend Thanksgiving with him in Mattapoisett and then get a ride Friday to Gavin House in Quincy, a residential substance abuse facility. Instead, Eric Zell told police his son took off Wednesday night, saying he planned to meet up with a friend and did not return that night or the next morning.
On Thanksgiving Day, Eric Zell drove to Plymouth for dinner with his girlfriend. At around 4 p.m., he got a call from a neighbor saying Jon Zell had returned to the Mattapoisett property "in an altered mental state." Eric Zell left Plymouth, retrieved his son from a house in Marion, and the two apparently returned home for the night.
Before dawn on Friday, Eric Zell awoke to find his son rummaging through his bureau drawers, claiming he was looking for prescription medication for his Crohn's disease. The father gave his son the medicine and fell asleep again. When he awoke, his son was gone, he told police.
Eric Zell that morning got a call from a neighbor saying there was an object in his backyard. He went out and saw his gun security safe. When he opened it, he saw that his 9mm Glock handgun was missing. He called Mattapoisett Police to report the theft and sent an electronic message to his son informing him that he had done so. A warrant was issued for Jon Zell's arrest out of Wareham District Court.
Jon Zell turned up again at around 8:30 a.m. in New Bedford – this time as an unwanted intruder at the home of an ex-friend, the affidavit states.
There were two teenage children in the third-story 90 Clark Street apartment when Zell appeared inside the home. He reportedly asked a female teen if he could use her phone to log in to his Snapchat account, and she said no. A male teen came downstairs from the attic, where he had been sleeping. The mother, Katie Keifer, yelled at Zell to get out of the house. She told police she believed Zell, who she referred to as "Will," had illegally entered the premise overnight, and that he was not welcome.
At about 10:20 a.m., shots rang out. Police responded and found Angel Cruz, 40, critically injured outside 12 LaFrance Court. The victim was rushed to Saint Luke's Hospital, where efforts to save his life failed. He was declared dead at 12:26 p.m.
Shortly after the initial shooting, a motor vehicle rollover was reported at the corner of County and Linden Streets. A 34-year-old man, Alfredo Balastier, was behind the wheel of a badly damaged Toyota Rav4 suffering from massive blood loss. Police determined that he had been shot at LaFrance Street and had tried to drive himself to Saint Luke's Hospital. He was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital in serious condition.
Meanwhile, neighbors gave police a description of the shooting suspect, including cell phone video. At about 11:09 a.m., two New Bedford officers spotted Zell standing near Penniman and Reynolds Streets. They ordered him to show his hands. Instead, he allegedly reached into his waistband, grabbed a handgun, and started firing. As backup officers arrived, Zell allegedly started shooting indiscriminately in their direction. No officers were shot, and the officers did not return fire. After emptying the gun, Zell allegedly dropped the weapon, put his hands on his head, and surrendered.
Zell was booked at New Bedford Police headquarters where he invoked his Miranda rights but still allegedly asked questions about the incident, Sullivan's affidavit states. He was booked on initial charges and held over the weekend pending arraignment. Police confiscated a white and gold cellular device from Zell and entered it into evidence.
Police subsequently conducted a search of the Clark Street apartment, an address where Zell had been arrested once in the past. In the attic, police say they found ammunition matching that of shells found at the two shooting scenes. They also found another box of ammunition in the attic that had been reported stolen from Eric Zell's home.
Jon Zell has been in the news before. In July of 2019, it was reported that Jon "Will" Zell, then 17, went missing from a juvenile program at Tewksbury Hospital. In 2017, a 15-year-old boy with the same name walked away from a juvenile group home in Methuen.
In court on Monday, defense attorney James Caramanica moved to revoke bail for a sexual assault charge pending against Zell in juvenile court. If granted, the motion would allow his client to be held at a juvenile detention facility instead of at the county jail. No action was immediately taken on that motion by Judge David P. Sorrenti.
An autopsy revealed that Cruz died of a single gunshot wound to the torso. His wife identified her husband's body at Saint Luke's Hospital. Balestier on Sunday was listed in stable condition.